Fifteen years after Christina Macías obtained her bachelor’s degree, the mother of two decided to go back to school, motivated to pursue a career in early childhood education and advocacy.
Macías enrolled in a master’s program at Fresno State University in 2015.
After three years of hard work, Macías will receive her master’s degree in early childhood education Saturday (May 19) at Fresno State’s 107th commencement ceremony at the Save Mart Center.
Macías is also graduating as the dean’s medalist for the Kremen School of Education and Human Development.
Fresno State’s eight schools and colleges, along with the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, selected nine outstanding graduate students to honor as its dean’s graduate medalist based on academic excellence, community involvement and other achievements.
“There are so many other amazing students in the Kremen School and they are all doing fantastic work. So when I think about having been selected its pretty humbling,” said Macías learning she was selected. “It’s a huge honor.”
Macías, who lives in Fresno, completed her master’s degree with a 4.0 GPA.
Enrolling for her master degree at Fresno State was like going back home. In 2000, Macías earned her bachelors degree in biology (ecology) from Fresno State.
She also has an associate degree in liberal studies from Fresno City College, graduating in 1994.
After earning her bachelor’s, Macías went on to work as a biologist for the state of California before creating a private preschool to provide responsive, relationship-based care to young children while leveraging her science background.
“I was a biologist for 10 years and when I started my own family, I struggled to find childcare for my daughter who had health issues, so I opened my own home-based program focusing on relationship-based care for entire families not just focusing on the child but entire families,” said Macías, who is originally from Ventura. “I loved the community nature of it so much that I also wanted to be a part of a learning community that was also focused on early education.
“So I came here and meet Dr. Cathy Yun three years ago and it’s been an amazing experience,” Macías said, adding that she focused primarily play, science and childhood education for those years.
“Because I have a science background, I really like to integrate science activities and science play in my own program. So I really wanted to do more of in-depth research out on that topic,” Macías said.
As part of her graduate work, Macías proposed a demonstration garden for the Fresno State campus to be used as a science-based resource for P-12 students and teacher candidates, as well as a tool to battle hunger. The location of the garden is being finalized, Macías said, adding that they looked at three different spaces on campus and hopefully by the fall one of those locations will be approve.
“I also wanted my demonstration garden project to serve as a tool to help the food insecurity issues on campus,” Macías said. “So it started out as this science and early childhood education thing and it has grown so big that we really like to see it service marginalized communities, and students on campus who need more food.”
“We are trying to create a space or place for different identities to be represented, specifically thought science experience but also thought food experiences,” Macías said.
What started as a grad project, it is now becoming something more real on campus that will last after Macías graduates on May 19.
“It feels surreal to be honest with you,” Macías said of leaving a legacy at Fresno State. “Why can’t we dream big enough to have this space accessible to who ever wants to own a piece of that experience?”
Macías said when she presented the idea to Dr. Yun, “She immediately says yes. Write a proposal and we will take it to the dean.”
Macías said she still in awe that her project is being embraced by the university.
“I came to a department, to a school, a university that wants to embrace a student’s idea in that way is just mind blowing to me,” Macías said of Fresno State.
Macías also participated in two research studies, including a math coherence project by Northwestern and Vanderbilt universities, and a Next Generation Educators Initiative to help design the CREATe Rubric.
Macías plans to pursue a Ph.D. at UC Davis.